Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Pinnacle....

Andy Turner recently send me a copy of "The Pinnacle" which was recently screened at Kendal Mountain Film Festival.  The story of a week of inspirational climbing by Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith on Ben Nevis - the pinnacle of the step cutting era.  Sadly, I couldn't go this year and couldn't wait to see the DVD when it popped through my letter box a few days later.

Sharing a house with Andy over the course of last winter meant that I had a pretty good idea about the hard work which went into the project and was keen to see the results.  I wasn't disappointed, Paul Diffley has done a superb job of editing modern climbing footage together with interviews from Jimmy Marshall and Robin Campbell along with many others.

I remember as a youth seeing Jimmy Marshall climb 'Bludgers Revelation' on the BBC production 'The Edge - 100 Years of Scottish Mountaineering, his assured style being a pleasure to watch.  His interview is similarly natural and engaging, a climber talking passionately about his achievements and those of his friends.

The modern climbing footage filmed on Ben Nevis last year showcases Britain's highest mountain as well as that of Turner/Macleod.

The criticisms; well I have heard a couple.  "It's too long", and "The climbing footage is a bit boring".  Well to be honest, I think you have missed the point.  Firstly, they did a lot of climbing that week, and if you want to watch people taking massive lobs onto tied off ice screws and non existent belays look else where.  If you want to view a celebration of Scottish Climbing achievement then you won't be disappointed....


Tower Ridge..

After a fairly epic drive from Sheffield to Fort William in heavy snow Nik Cook and I had our first winter foray on Ben Nevis today.

'Tower Ridge' IV,3 was our target, a classic route of near alpine stature and one that Nik was keen to give a go having heard that it was similar to the Cosmiques Arete (Chamonix).

We made steady progress, and although conditions are good the shallow snowpack is sometimes hard going given the cold of recent weeks.  In some places faceting has occurred resulting in a very granular and most unsatisfactory layer lurking under a harder crust.  The only thing this is good for is collapsing under your feet at strategic moments - not exactly the neve that Ben Nevis is famous for.

Anyway, the weather couldn't have been much better with clear blue skies and good visibility.  For the end of November conditions appear very good although it's the harder mixed routes that will be in the best "nic".  Lines on No.3 Gully Buttress, The Comb and the Creag Coire Na Ciste looked best.  Ice is also forming on the CIC Hut cascades and on the Curtain which can only be good.

Over the last week or so routes such as 'Babylon' VII,7, 'Darth Vader' VII,8, 'Gargoyle Wall' VI,6, and 'Tower Face of the Comb' VI,6 have all been climbed along with several attempts on 'Don't Die of Ignorance' XI,11? courtesy of Messrs Turner and Stone. More info at Andy' Blog.

Fingers crossed it's the start of another great winter...

Extreme Single Pitch Award Training..

Apologies for the lack of updates, it's been a busy few days!

Over the weekend I was out with Harry, Tim and Mandy doing a PeakMT Single Pitch Award Training course - in some fairly extreme crag conditions.

With a fresh dusting of snow a yard broom would have been more useful than a chalk bag, but this didn't deter the team would managed to make sure that they got some climbing done.  The bulk of our time was spent looking at personal and group orientated skills as well as coaching climbing at 'The Works' in Sheffield.

Since taking this photo at Lawrencefield, Dave Hollinger has been out on his skis putting some fresh tracks in in the Peak District.  You don't hear that often..

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mountain Leader Award Training, Ropework..

I was out with the same team today doing some ML Ropework at Stanage Edge along with Neil Johnson.

This was the end of the Peak District phase of Peak Mountain Training's ML course, the next being a mini expedition break in Snowdonia.

Neil is heading over there as I type this to experience some welsh blizzard conditions over the next couple of days.

Back here in the Peak District it was bitterly cold at Stanage Edge, with a northerly breeze.  It was just about climbable in the sun with a few folk out braving the cold.  The more sheltered venues of Lawrencefield, Rivelin, Agden Rocher etc will probably be the best bets at the moment...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mountain Leader Award Training, Peak District..

I was out on the hill for a second day with Sarah, Rosa, Ash, Steve, Jack and Rik's ML Training Course with Peak Mountain Training.

We decided to visit the barren moors of Bleaklow today looking at navigation and group leadership.  Dropping down from Doctors Gate we decided to head up the steep gully of Ashton Clough which requires some management of the group in steep ground.

At about half height are the remains of C47A Dakota which crashed in 1945, pictured is the main bit of fuselage wedged in the gully.

After checking this out we headed up the steep hillside for a circuit of James Thorn and Higher Shelf Stones before heading back to the Snake Pass..

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter Conditions in Scotland..

Scotland appears to be in the grip of an early winter and many of the classic early season routes have already seen some ascents.

In the Northern Corries, routes such as The Message (pictured from last season), Hoarmaster, Hookers Corner and Savage Slit are climbable with the first snows.  Elsewhere routes have been done on Ben Nevis on the popular early season venue of No3 Gully Buttress.  This includes a new line by the ever keen Steve Ashworth and Paddy Cave.  Details here at UKC.

There are already considerable quantities of snow in some places and as such the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) has started issuing it's bulletins earlier than usual. 

Finally, there has also been early avalanche activity some of which was recorded by the SAIS observers in the Northern Cairngorms in the video clip below.  Check out the tell tale signs of wind transported snow on the skyline at the start of the clip....

Mountain Leader Award Training, Peak District..

I have been out today on the first day of a Peak Mountain Training Mountain Leader Course.

We spent the day doing a brief introduction to Mountain Leader Navigation on Brown Knoll near Kinder Scout.  During the day we navigated to the slighly spooky looking Cowborne Tunnel ventilation shaft - a famous local landmark visible from the west. 

This was famously descended by a group of local cavers using SRT techniques who carefully consulted the train timetable.  Not a practice to perhaps repeat!.....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Edale MRT Climbing at Stanage Edge..

I was out on Stanage Edge today with Hannah and Dave from Edale Mountain Rescue Team.

In attempt to build good links between the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI) and Edale MRT, Ed Chard had arranged a day of climbing in the Peak.

All members of Mountain Rescue Teams in the UK are made up of outdoor people, many of whom are climbers.  Despite this, many also come from a purely hillwalking background so today was a good opportunity to get stuck into some cragging.

Both Dave and Hannah had done quite a lot of climbing in the past, so today was an opportunity to go climbing and receive some coaching hints and tips along the way.

Hannah is pictured firing up the semi-subterranean 'Left Twin Chimney' Diff, one of the first routes to be climbed on Stanage by J.W. Puttrell in the late 1800's. 

Conditions were cold in the light northerly wind, but there were plenty of people out braving the conditions to make the most of maximum friction..

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mountain Expedition in Snowdonia..

Steve and I spent the last couple of days traversing the Glyderau in Snowdonia.

We spent our time navigating (including some night nav), working in steep ground and looking at the personal skills required for wild camping.

With a reasonable amount of snow on the ground at higher elevations care was required in route choice, particularly on steeper ground.  A cold night resulted in refrozen snow - anybody heading into the hills in the coming days would be wise to take an axe and crampons with them.

Fingers crossed this will bode well for the welsh winter climbing this season, especially as there is a new Ground Up Guide on the way.  Come on Baggy give me a sneak preview....

Monday, November 08, 2010

Navigation in the Upper Derwent...

Steve and I were out on the hill again today, this time in the Upper Derwent.

The aim was to do some mock Walking Group Leader (WGL) assessment navigation.  With poor visibility, high winds, heavy rain and snow showers Steve's navigation was certainly put to the test.

Tomorrow we are heading over to North Wales for a brief camping mini break with the aim of building up personal skills and experience in preparation for the Mountain Leader Award (ML).

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Kinder Scout Walking Group Leader Refresher..

Another day out on Kinder today with Steve, Pete (and Sam).  The second of two days Walking Group Leader refresher; we concentrated on bringing the three major syllabus elements together.  Navigation, group leadership and environmental knowledge.

It was another cold day out on the hill today, but again the clarify was amazing with great views over the the Eastern Edges and the Derwent Moors.

Over in North Wales the first snowfalls have arrived and further north folk have been out climbing in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms.

Finally, Dave Hollinger and Neil Johnson were out doing a Single Pitch Award Training and Assessment course respectively, busy weekend!..  For more details of these courses visit http://www.peakmountaintraining.co.uk

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Walking Group Leader Refresher..

Steve, Pete (and Sam the Collie) have been out on Kinder Scout today as part of a Walking Group Leader (WGL) refresher.

With Steve's assessment coming up, we spent the day practicing micro and macro navigation in perfect visibility!

It was fantastic up on Kinder with a cool breeze, almost infinite visibility and great moorland colours.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Stoney Middleton revisited....

Duncan and I decided to return to Stoney Middleton today in search of dry rock, and weren't dissapointed.

Stoney is one of those crags that provokes strong emotions in anybody who has visited, you either love it or hate it.  Famously described by the late Paul Nunn in the book 'Hard Rock' as 'a rock-climbers apocalyptic vision of the wasteland.'

One thing is for certain though, all the routes here pack a bit of a punch, and long after your pumped forearms subside the memories will remain.

Keen to feel the 'Stoney pump' we headed to the Minus Ten Wall this morning while the rain was falling to do some bouldering.  This fine heavily polished wall sports a tricky traverse which takes no prisoners where sloppy footwork is concerned.  After a couple of laps here we nipped over to climb the two pitch 'Aurora' VS 4c,4c a route which requires a bit of care due to slightly loose and poorly protected climbing on the first pitch.

Meanwhile James Turnbull and his mate climbed the fine corner of 'Memnon' E2 5b which was cleaned recently and the superb 'Scoop Wall' E2 5c (pictured).

For more about the history of Stoney check out the Tales of Windy Ledge

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Windgather and Stoney Middleton..

Duncan and I had planned to spend a few days in Scotland this week but frequent depressions sweeping the country resulted in a rethink.

With Duncan's Single Pitch Award assessment coming up we spent the morning at Windgather Rocks looking at personal climbing; with me seconding some routes for a change.

We also had time to review top-rope and bottom-rope setups as well as discussing the important issues of proactive safety management of groups in the single pitch environment.  Prevention is better than a cure.

With heavy rain arriving from the west we bolted to Stoney Middleton in search of rain proof rock..  Sadly, it didn't quite work out, and an early retreat for tea and cake was called for.  Fingers crossed that there will be a break in the weather tomorrow.  You will probably find us at the more sheltered venues of Stoney Middleton, Rivelin or the Climbing Works!..